(John 4:5-42) When we see images of Pope Francis hugging a drug addict, kissing a man’s disfigured face, or washing the feet of prisoners, it’s hard not to be moved by these acts of compassion. We know it’s not part of a marketing campaign or just a media stunt – not something he’s doing for attention or accolades. Pope Francis has shown the world that he genuinely loves people and when he reaches out to them, it’s an expression of what’s in his heart.
His care and concern naturally extend to all people, but especially to those gravely wounded by sin, relegated to the margins of society, or struggling with serious illness and addictions. The pope sees the Church as “a field hospital after battle”1 and he is its chief medic. Instead of being put off or disgusted by the misery and brokenness of humanity, Pope Francis is drawn to it. Our Holy Father, no doubt, has met many women “at the well.”
I couldn’t help thinking of Pope Francis when reflecting on this week’s Gospel – the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. This beautiful story demonstrates perfectly the depth of God’s mercy and love. Jesus tells the woman “everything she ever did,” but not in a way that’s harsh or judgmental. The woman discovers that she can hide nothing in His presence, nor does she need to. It doesn’t matter that she’s a Samaritan…or a woman. It’s of little consequence that she’s made so many mistakes. What’s done is done. Jesus meets her where she is, yet offers her so much more – a relationship with Him, that life-giving water that never runs dry.2
Are we really any different? We’re all in need of healing and yearn to be touched by God’s mercy and unconditional love. And, in turn, what does Jesus ask of us? To love others as He has loved us. To be merciful to others as He has been merciful to each one of us… Not judging the friend who is desperately searching for meaning in all the wrong places. Hugging the child who is whining and clamoring for attention, when you’d rather just send them to their room (sometimes they need that, too!). Offering help or a kind word to that person who really rubs you the wrong way. It’s really about meeting people where they are and loving them, even when they seem unlovable – for that’s when they need it the most.
Like Pope Francis, we are on the front lines every day. As Christians, we are called to be the face of Jesus, to extend His mercy and love to all those we meet. It is a love that shapes and transforms everyone it touches, mending wounded hearts and making all things new.
– Kelley Holy
1 Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with La Civilta Cattolica, Internet, http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview, accessed 20 March, 2014.
2 Cf. John 4:14